The Grisha #2
Henry Holt and Co.
Available June 4th
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Darkness never dies.
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.
Siege and Storm returns us to a world that utterly captivated us from its introduction, teaming us back up with a young woman yanked from the throngs of the many and placed among the exalted and elite few with hardly any time to get her bearings. Based on the lack of even a small recap in the opening chapters of this second installment, it's recommended that readers review the concluding events of Shadow and Bone to help them find their footing before journeying forth with Alina and Mal once again, but even those who stumble a bit in the beginning without the refresher will find themselves fully immersed in–and connected to–Alina's world before long. Once the connections broken by time are firmly reestablished, Ms. Bardugo holds us spellbound, utterly riveted to the pages as the girl who literally radiates light falls prey to darkness from within and without.
Our affection for Alina is one of the first things to burst forth from the pages in a torrent of fond memories from book one, and we're immediately reminded of the strength it takes to bear both the reverent love of the masses and the distrust and dislike of the powerful, wishing we could will her some of our support through finger to page osmosis. We're eternally grateful for Mal's presence though, and eventually the lighthearted companionship of one snarky, smart-mouthed privateer, both of whom are able to grant Alina a few brief moments of normalcy before the weight of a world's expectations is placed firmly back on her shoulders. Though there are brief flashes of an Alina we don't recognize when the aforementioned darkness starts to take hold, she never once submits in full, continuing to fight enemies of the mind and heart as well as the physical enemies that are bearing down on Ravka with everything she has.
The most noticeable change in this book from its predecessor is the physical absence of the Darkling, an enigmatic and epically complex figure who haunted both our dreams and nightmares as we devoured Shadow and Bone. What makes him such a beautifully unforgettable villain is his cool calculation and cunning, and while he only graces us with his presence in the very beginning, his seemingly small and perhaps even petty strike against Alina proves to be a well-placed hook that tugs free a tiny thread from the fabric of her life. Once he makes his move, he retreats for almost the full remainder of the story, but what we don't see until much later is the tactical genius of his strike, leaving the thread he tugged dangling loose to snag on any one of the many obstacles she faces, unraveling a bit more every time it catches on one of her new responsibilities, her love for Mal, or her fear of herself and what she's becoming. Instead of plaguing her with assault after assault, he simply gives a nearly imperceptible pull and then watches and waits as she undoes herself, ensuring he's done the most damage with the least amount of effort so that he remains strong for the physical battle to come.
Ms. Bardugo does not disappoint with Siege and Storm, crafting a story that nicks our hearts again and again as Alina struggles, but she saves the deeper cuts and the more powerful blows for the concluding chapters, sending us reeling just before we're left staring desolately at the acknowledgements and inside back cover. She does gift us with an “After”, a short two pages where the story switches to third person from first, and in the final line we find a spark of hope we have no doubt will grow into a roaring fire of retribution in the final installment.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.